Serpentine’s Avatar Art Show Mixes Virtual And Sensory Stimulation

Serpentine’s Avatar Art Show Mixes Virtual And Sensory Stimulation
Arts & Culture

CGI artist Ed Atkins creates complex and nightmarish environments populated by computer animation.

Emma Hutchings
  • 13 june 2014

CGI artist Ed Atkins works mainly with high definition video and text in his quest to subvert the conventions of moving image and literature. He has exhibited his work internationally in cities including Zurich, New York, Dublin, and London. For his latest, which is also his largest solo exhibition in a UK public institution, he has transformed the Serpentine Sackler Gallery into a submersive environment of sounds, bodies and spaces.

The installation is centered around an augmented and extended version of his new multi-screen video work ‘Ribbons.’. Presented on large projection screens, it features a digitally created avatar called Dave who talks, drinks, smokes and sings. Atkins mapped his own features to develop the male character and has covered his virtual skin in various doodles and scrawled phrases.

Alongside this computer generated character are installations of text, images, videos and tourettic interjections. The exhibition aims to display the ambivalent relationship that exists between real and virtual objects, and between real and virtual conditions. All of the words and visuals seem to be reaching to get a hold on reality, but never quite manage to escape their virtual world.


Throughout the exhibition space, Atkins’ videos combine layered images with incomplete or interrupted excerpts of singing, spoken word, subtitles and handwriting. Sounds from a collection of synchronized projections located in different parts of the gallery lead visitors as they walk through the space. These range from pop songs, orchestra, murmurs from the artist and sub-bass waves, which produces an unsettling mixture of audio extracts.

‘Ribbons’ is described as part musical, horror and melodrama.The artist’s work aims to highlight the way we perceive, communicate and filter information in our everyday lives. Atkins exploits the hyperreal surfaces produced by new forms of computer animation to create virtual environments that are both complex and nightmarish. These are populated by digital characters of ambiguous provenance and desires.

Although his fabricated avatars utter poetic lines and are backed by emotive music, they are ultimately empty vessels, which reminds visitors of their own physicality. Atkins’ free exhibition runs from June 11th to August 25th in the Serpentine Sackler Gallery.

Serpentine Sackler Gallery

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+serpentine gallery

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